TCM Salutes Fred MacMurray

Posted on January 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Turner Classic Movies is leading off 2016 with a great choice for their star of the month: Fred MacMurray. I grew up watching him as the genial single dad in “My Three Sons,” and the inventor of flubber (flying rubber) in “The Absent-Minded Professor.” It was only when I was a teenager that I discovered he was outstanding in films that included dark comedy (the fiendish boss in “The Apartment”), light romantic comedy (“Take a Letter, Darling”), westerns (“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”), musicals (“Where Do We Go From Here?”), Disney family movies (“The Shaggy Dog”), touching love stories (“Remember the Night”), and the film noir classic, “Double Indemnity.”

MacMurray worked with top directors including Edward Dmytryk (“The Caine Mutiny”), George Stevens (“Alice Adams”), Mitchell Leisen (“No Time for Love”), Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”) and Preston Sturges (“Remember the Night”) and actors Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and, in seven films, Claudette Colbert, beginning with “The Gilded Lily” (1935). He co-starred with Katharine Hepburn in “Alice Adams” (1935), with Joan Crawford in “Above Suspicion” (1943), and with Carole Lombard in four films: “Hands Across the Table” (1935), “The Princess Comes Across” (1936), “Swing High, Swing Low” (1937), and “True Confession” (1937). Here we see him go from insurance salesman to murder accomplice because Barbara Stanwyck is so impossible to resist. “I wonder if you wonder.”

On Wednesdays this month, TCM will show some of his best films, including “Double Indemnity,” “Too Many Husbands,” “Remember the Night,” “Woman’s World,” and “Callaway Went Thataway,” plus one of my favorite goofy movies, “Kisses for My President,” where he plays the husband of the first woman President.

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Actors Film History For Your Netflix Queue

#WheresRey in the Star Wars Monopoly Game?

Posted on January 5, 2016 at 11:02 am

Jenna Busch asked Hasbro to explain why the main character of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is not represented in their Star Wars Monopoly game. Even though one of the four figures in the game is Luke Skywalker, who does not appear until the film’s last moment.

Their answer: they didn’t want her inclusion to be a spoiler.

Update on January 5, 2016: Hasbro has agreed to add Rey to the Monopoly game. The Force wins again.

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Other 2015 Bests: Character Actors, Kisses, Indies, Docs

Posted on January 5, 2016 at 8:00 am

The Golden Globes will be awarded this week, followed by the Broadcast Film Critics Awards on January 17, 2016 and the Oscars next month. But none of them are likely to mention the following, which I came across in year-end best lists and especially enjoyed.

Stephanie Merry wrote about the year’s best character actor performances for the Washington Post, from the feisty Vuvalini in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” to Bing Bong in “Inside Out,” Sam Elliott in “Grandma” (and, I’d add, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “The Good Dinosaur”), and Big Dick Richie in “Magic Mike XXL” her choices are both surprising and, once you consider them, inevitable. I love character actors, and was really delighted to see Merry give them the attention they deserve and so seldom receive.

Roxana Hadadi’s list of the best and worst kisses and sex scenes for Punch-Drunk Critics was a treat because she explains what each moment gives to the film’s story and characters.

WhatsCulture has a great list of the year’s best independent films, from “Tangerine” (shot on an iPhone) to big-budget productions featuring well-known stars like Joel Edgerton and Joaquin Phoenix.

Newsweek’s list of the year’s best documentaries includes Colin Hanks’ film about Tower Records, films about the late Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, the story of the legendary interview of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut, and “The Look of Silence,” the companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s stunning “Act of Killing.”

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When Will the Next Star Wars Films Be Released?

Posted on January 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Can’t wait for more? Well, Disney says this is what we have to look forward to in the “Star Wars” universe.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (takes place before Episode IV, about obtaining the plans Leia will stash in the first of the “Star Wars” films to be released)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk
Release: Dec. 16, 2016

“Star Wars: Episode VIII” (So Rey hands Luke the lightsaber, and then….)
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (of “Brick” and “Looper”)
Starring: Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac (reportedly)
Release: May 26, 2017

“Star Wars Anthology: Han Solo” (working title) (backstory of Han Solo — maybe we’ll get to see him make that Kessel run)
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The LEGO Movie” guys!)
Written by: Lawrence and Jon Kasdan
Starring: Not yet announced
Release: May 25th, 2018

“Star Wars: Episode IX”
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Rian Johnson
Starring: Not yet announced
Logline: Unknown
Release: 2019

“Star Wars Anthology: Boba Fett”
Director: Not yet announced
Writer: Not yet announced
Starring: Not yet announced
Logline: Unknown
Release: 2020 (reportedly)

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Opening This Week: Anomalisa and The Revenant

Posted on January 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Copyright 2015 20th Century Fox
Copyright 2015 20th Century Fox
There were no major national releases in movie theaters last week, and this week’s releases are not entirely “new” — their titles may be familiar from critics’ end of year top ten lists. Both had “qualifying” limited releases so they can be considered for Golden Globes, Oscars, and Broadcast Film Critics awards. But both will now be available to audiences across the country for the first time.

“The Revenant” stars Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hardy in a fact-based story of survival and revenge in the American frontier of the 1830’s. It is directed and co-written by “Birdman’s” Alejandro González Iñárritu, with astonishing cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki. DiCaprio plays a trapper/guide left for dead after he is ravaged by a bear. He makes it back to camp in an extraordinary act of determination and courage. “Revenant” means ghost or spirit of someone who has died.

“Anomalisa” Charlie Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Being John Malkovich”) wrote and co-directed a stop-motion animated story of loneliness, isolation, and the competing urges for and against true intimacy. The title is a portmanteau (combination of two words) — Lisa is a character voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh whose unique characteristics (possibly temporary) make her an anomaly. Like all of Kaufman’s work, it is challenging, imaginative, and darkly funny. Here animator Carol Koch talks about creating the stop-motion characters.

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Opening This Week
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